Northumberland software firm Mandata acquires haulage exchange

A hotly-tipped North East software firm has grown with the acquisition of the UK's largest online haulage and freight exchange. Cramlington firm Mandata, which designs and develops software that allows road transport operators to manage workflow and data more effectively, has acquired Essex firm Returnloads.net for an undisclosed sum. Mandata said the deal would both expand its customer base and the breadth of its digital services, as well as helping its customers win more work.

Returnloads.net is an online marketplace for hauliers and freight forwarders which offers its members the opportunity to subcontract jobs and to advertise empty vehicle capacity. The platform helps hauliers improve their productivity by reducing the amount they travel without cargo, and it is hoped that the firm's system will complement Mandata's management software. Mandata CEO Chris Rigg said: "Returnloads.net's focus on using digital solutions to benefit the road transport and logistics sector matched our own objectives perfectly.

This acquisition will help us diversify and expand our offering, while continuing to give customers the tools they need to reduce costs, drive efficiencies and improve productivity. "Since LDC's investment, we have made significant progress on our growth plan. Innovation underpins our model, so it's been invaluable to work with a partner that understands how to support technology businesses and has the financial firepower, sector knowledge and heritage in the North East we need to achieve our ambitions."

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The deal comes two years after Mandata, which was formed in 1974, won ?20m backing for a secondary buyout from LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group.

LDC has funded the deal for Returnloads.net, with debt facilities provided by Santander. Gareth Marshall, head of Newcastle at LDC, added: "LDC actively supports management teams which are looking to grow their businesses through acquisition. This acquisition is a major milestone in Mandata's growth journey and evidence of the strength of the North East's technology sector during such an uncertain time for businesses.

"We have worked closely with Chris and the team to fund and support this acquisition.

I'm confident Mandata is now even better positioned to help customers thrive as UK transport becomes increasingly digital."

Mandata was advised by Muckle and KPMG.

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